Immigration and Citizenship

RELEASE: Letter to Secretary Ross: Census Citizenship Question “Threatens to Undermine Your Constitutional Duty”

In Brief

Adding a question on citizenship—particularly at this late juncture—threatens to undermine Secretary Ross's constitutional duty to ensure that the 2020 Census counts all of the nation’s people.
Our Constitution’s Founders established a democracy premised on the idea that all persons—no matter where they are from—deserve equal representation.
To add a citizenship question runs directly counter to the constitutional duty on the Census Bureau to ensure a count that includes everyone.

WASHINGTON—In advance of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s impending decision whether to insert a question about respondents’ citizenship status into the short form used by U.S. Census takers, Constitutional Accountability Center today sent a letter to Secretary Ross calling on him to reject such a question.

Read the full letter here.

In the letter, CAC reminds Secretary Ross—as the Member of the President’s cabinet in charge of the Census—what the powerful text and history of the Constitution’s Census provisions command. CAC President Elizabeth Wydra and Civil Rights Director David Gans explain, in part:

Adding a question on citizenship—particularly at this late juncture—threatens to undermine your constitutional duty to ensure that the 2020 Census counts all of the nation’s people.

More than two centuries ago, our Constitution’s Founders established a democracy premised on the idea that all persons—no matter where they are from—deserve equal representation…. The Constitution’s Framers required a decennial Census directly in the Constitution to prevent partisan manipulation of our representative democracy…. As Hamilton insisted, “[a]n actual census or enumeration of the people must furnish the rule, a circumstance which effectively shuts the door to partiality and oppression.” Thus, the Constitution imposes a clear duty: it requires a count of all people living in the United States….

The Fourteenth Amendment requires apportioning representatives among the states “according to their respective numbers, counting the whole numbers of persons in each state….” The Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment… insisted that “the whole immigrant population should be numbered with the people and counted as part of them.” As history shows, the purpose of the census required by the Constitution has never been to count citizens, but rather to count “the whole body of the people.”

Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census would break faith with the Constitution’s mandate for a head count of the entire nation. …To add a citizenship question runs directly counter to the constitutional duty on the Census Bureau to ensure a count that includes everyone….

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Resources:

Letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross from Constitutional Accountability Center on his duties under the U.S. Constitution’s Census provisions: https://www.theusconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/20180215-CAC-Census-Letter-Ross.pdf

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Constitutional Accountability Center (www.theusconstitution.org) is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history.

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